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Dr Haikerwal recognised for gold medal service to health

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Former AMA President and prominent GP Dr Mukesh Haikerwal has been awarded the prestigious AMA Gold Medal, the Association’s highest honour, in recognition of his outstanding service to the medical profession and the community.

In one of his last acts as AMA President, Dr Steve Hambleton bestowed the award on Dr Haikerwal in a ceremony at the AMA National Conference Gala Dinner.

Dr Hambleton told the dinner Dr Haikerwal had been a leading figure in the medical profession for many years, and his long list of significant and enduring achievements warranted the Association’s highest accolade.

“In the last two decades, Dr Haikerwal has been an extraordinarily active and committed member of the AMA, advancing the interests of members and patients at almost every level of the organisation,” Dr Hambleton said.

Dr Haikerwal has long-standing involvement in the AMA.

He became an AMA Victoria State Councillor in 1995, rising to be State President in 2001 and, four years later, became the Federal AMA President.

The Melbourne-based GP has held numerous important and demanding positions within the Association, including Chair of the Taskforce on Indigenous Health and the Committee on the Care of Older People, as well as serving on the General Practice, Public Health, Therapeutics, and Doctors in Training committees.

But, impressive though this record of involvement is, the criteria for the Gold Award make it clear that it is not to be bestowed “by virtue only of holding any office or position within the Association”.

There have been just 22 other recipients of the AMA Gold Medal, including Professor Ian Frazer, Sir Gustav Nossal, Dr Brendan Nelson, Professor Fiona Stanley, Professor Robin Warren and Professor Barry Marshall.

In explaining his decision to nominate Dr Haikerwal for the Gold Medal, said he had been at the forefront of many issues pivotal to the health care system.

 “He played a significant role in securing the future of medical practice during the indemnity crisis, he led the profession in embedding the principle and practice of informed financial consent, he highlighted the glaring deficiencies in the care of Indigenous Australians, and called attention to the risks posed by the burgeoning number of medical school places without accompanying provision for the capacity of the training pathway,” Dr Hambleton said.

“Not only this but, as AMA President, he confronted the spectre of medical racism, and led the AMA in condemning abuse of international medical graduates.”

One of Dr Haikerwal’s abiding passions has been to advance the adoption and integration of information technologies into the practice of medicine, because of the potential to enhance the safety and quality of treatment as well as improve efficiency of, and access to, care.

 Dr Hambleton said Dr Haikerwal had been instrumental in putting the AMA at the centre of the e-health debate, leading the Association’s enthusiastic support for the adoption of e-health.

“It is an issue that remains both essential, yet unresolved, but not for wont of effort by Dr Haikerwal, who continued to work hard on e-health following his presidency, most recently as the Clinical Lead for the National E-Health Transition Authority.”

Dr Hambleton said that, since leaving the AMA Presidency in 2007, Dr Haikerwal has continued to be an influential figure.

In 2008-09, he was a Commissioner on the Australian Health and Hospitals Reform Commission, which recommended major changes including the introduction of activity-based funding in public hospitals and the establishment of local hospital networks.

He is regular contributor to public debates and is looked to as a trusted advisor by Health Ministers across the political spectrum.

“Dr Haikerwal’s contribution has extended beyond this nation’s shores,” Dr Hambleton said.

“He has been a member of the World Medical Association’s Council since 2007, and in 2011 became the first Australian to be elected as Chair of the world body. In this position he has fostered the pursuit of ethical care, professional standards and the freedom of doctors to treat all people.”

“Dr Haikerwal has been a keen and selfless supporter of the AMA for many years, and has been a generous mentor and source of support for many of the Association’s leaders.

“Amid all this, he has continued to maintain a busy general practice, and showed tremendous courage and determination to resume work after suffering serious injuries in 2008.”

Dr Haikerwal has been recognised for his outstanding contribution with a string of honours, including the Centenary Medal, Fellowship of the AMA, the AMA President’s Award and being made an Officer of the Order of Australia.

“Dr Haikerwal is a most deserving recipient of the AMA Gold Medal,” Dr Hambleton said.

Adrian Rollins